In the 50th year of the New England Golf Association Junior Amateur Invitational — and the first year of the inaugural junior girls class — it was only fitting to acknowledge the Bay State’s high school girls’ golf champions.
Sandwich residents Emily Hunt and Bridget Lopes, two anchors on the first-year Blue Knights’ spring golf team that won a state title, made up two of the three girls spots on the 10-player Massachusetts team that competed against the five other states from the New England region at the three-day tournament at Mill River Country Club in Stratford, Conneticut.
“It was an honor,” said Hunt, who graduated this past spring and will be playing NCAA Division I golf at Merrimack College this fall. “This is such a big tournament.”
From last Sunday, August 11 through Tuesday, August 13, the groups took part in a 54-hole team and individual stroke play competition. Team scores were calculated by taking the best five boys’ scores and best two girls’ scores. The New England Junior Amateur Invitational is considered a World Amateur Golf Ranking Counting Event, with points awarded to players based on performance.
So when it came time to choose a captain for the girls’ division for Massachusetts, Mass Golf, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing in-state golf by promoting its competitive spirit and camaraderie, looked to Hunt.
“I’ve been with Mass Golf for the last 10 years, including programs like First Tee,” she said. “I’ve been a part of the girls’ golf scene in state and helped start the team at Sandwich High. Although I play with the boys, I always try to get girls involved.”
That’s where Lopes came in. She was the low scorer for the Blue Knights during their championship round at Pleasant Valley Country Club in Sutton, Massachusetts. At Hunt’s recommendation, the state chose Lopes as the third girls player, along with St. Peter-Marian’s Mia Dang.
“I felt so fortunate to experience a tournament at this level,” Lopes said. “I have to admit, it was a little overwhelming at first, but after meeting the coaches and making friends with the other girls, I was able to appreciate the opportunity I was given.”
Though the boys and girls fell short of winning the tourney, Hunt said that Mass Golf was pleased with their incremental improvement each day.
“They were really proud that all of us were two shots better with every round,” Hunt said. “That meant a lot.”
Considering how rushed the Bay State team was at the start of the tournament and monsoon that was dumped on the Connecticut course, that was a big accomplishment. Hunt detailed how the Massachusetts team promptly stepped on the course for a practice round following its two-and-a-half hour drive. Shortly thereafter the team had 30 minutes, she said, to change for a black-tie dinner that night.
Day One of the tournament began with a 7:30 AM start that didn’t end until 36 holes were completed. They stepped foot off the course at 7:15 PM. Day Two featured suspended play after an hour-long rain delay.
“It was our first time playing 36 tournament holes,” Hunt said. “We’ve played 36 holes for enjoyment. It was extremely tiring.”
Lopes agreed, adding there was both a mental and physical drain to all-day tournament.
“It surprising how I used muscles I never knew I had. I’m so sore,” said Lopes, who’ll be a freshman this fall at Sandwich High.
“It was hard keeping a positive mental approach, which is my top priority when I’m playing golf.”